Even though the NFL season is still a couple of weeks from its start, college football Week 0 begins this coming Saturday. This means that NFL scouts are starting their duties and looking for the next best crop of players set to enter the NFL. The incoming class of draft picks is one of the most exciting in recent memory, making monitoring their progress an all-season job.
The formula for the Baltimore Ravens staying competitive for so many years is evident at this point. Don’t overpay for free agents and use the compensatory picks to pick up new players through the draft. This has been the philosophy for a long time and though the Ravens have gone through a bit of a change with new general manager Eric DeCosta, the way he approached the 2019 off-season shows he will stick by this formula. With all the free agents and off-season moves made over the past couple of months, Baltimore could have up to 11 picks when compensatory picks are handed out before next year’s draft.
Ravens scouts have a fun season ahead and the scouting done over the next eight months could shape the current team for years to come. These are nine college players the Ravens should be watching this upcoming season in preparation for next year’s draft.
Nine Baltimore Ravens NFL Draft Targets to Watch in 2020
Yetur Gross-Matos (Penn State) – Edge
Unlike last year’s, this season’s edge class is far shallower at the top. Chase Young and A.J. Epenesa are the two front runners at the position and both have top-10 talent in a loaded class. However, there’s a decent drop off after them. The Ravens need pass rushers and Gross-Matos is likely the third-best edge defender in the class. He has the size and length that NFL general managers love in a defensive end but he relies a bit more heavily on natural talent rather than skill. That didn’t stop him from piling up 20 tackles for loss, good for second in the Big Ten, and eight sacks in 2018. Gross-Matos seems to be slotted in the 15-22 pick range, fairly close to where the Ravens would likely pick. If his technique improves as a junior, he could be an absolute monster off the edge for Baltimore in the future.
Dylan Moses (Alabama) – Inside Linebacker
Out goes one Alabama linebacker, potentially, in comes a second. The departure of C.J. Mosley has left interior linebacker as the weakest position group on the Ravens roster. Moses could be the plug they need to stabilize the middle of the field. Lined up beside 2019 fifth-round pick Mack Wilson, Moses totaled the most tackles on the Crimson Tide last season. He can fly to the ball and has great vision as a field general. A versatile linebacker like Moses is integral to a defense these days in the NFL. If the Ravens are looking for another Mosley in the upcoming draft, Moses would likely be their best option.
Grant Delpit (LSU) – Safety
With the value of safeties taking a turn for the worst during the draft process, Delpit will likely be a steal no matter where he’s picked. Derwin James showed the value and electricity of a good safety in 2018, slipping to 17th overall despite being one of the best overall players in the class. Delpit is likely next in line. Even with a secondary full of future NFLers, he’s the one that jumps out at you. Delpit is long, fast, has a motor to boast, and can make plays from sideline to sideline. Depending on the season Tony Jefferson has, the Ravens could potentially benefit from freeing up $7 million worth of space and be looking for another strong safety. I wouldn’t expect the Ravens picking Delpit to line up but there’s a chance DecCosta just goes best player available with a player of his caliber.
Isaiah Simmons (Clemson) – Safety/Outside Linebacker
Though he’s probably not as talented as Delpit, Simmons is another safety that can play all over the field. At Clemson, he continually lines as both a linebacker and hybrid safety. He could have even maybe lined up as an edge had Clemson’s d-line not been so stacked the past two seasons. It is also likely that Simmons will be available later in the first or even second round. That’s of course if his Combine performance doesn’t shoot his draft stock through the roof. A defensive athlete with great game sense and versatility like Simmons is hard to find. With Anthony Levine at age 32, the Ravens could be looking for another player who can line up in different packages but still provide consistent results. Simmons led Clemson in tackles and tied for the lead in forced fumbles in 2018.
Collin Johnson (Texas) – Wide Receiver
The Ravens took two swings at wide receiver at the 2019 draft. However, this doesn’t mean that DeCosta is done looking for playmakers. With Lamar Jackson not being the most consistent passer, the Ravens are likely going to want to surround him with receivers that have a large catch radius. Johnson fits that profile. Though it is more likely he ends up in the second round, a target at 6’6″ is (literally) hard to ignore. His hands are solid and he has a bit more wiggle and athleticism than you’d expect from a player of his size. Even with the selection of Miles Boykin this year, whom Johnson topped in receiving yards in 2018, DeCosta will likely still be taking swings at receiver until he finds the perfect pairings for Jackson. Johnson just needs to become a bit better at tracking the ball in the air and could be a fringe first-round talent.
Henry Ruggs III (Alabama) – Wide Receiver
With Willie Snead in the final year of his contract and potentially in for a sizable raise, the Ravens are going to need another consistent threat over the middle. Ruggs is a player that could immediately come in to fill that role. His skillset flies a bit under the radar due to playing with Jerry Jeudy but when you watch him play, you see a guy who could be a dominant number one receiver on another college team. Ruggs has great speed, great hands, good route running and has the ability to make highlight-reel catches perhaps more than any receiver in the class. He’d be an ideal slot receiver in the Ravens offense and could contribute in the run game as well. His draft stock is different depending on where you look but as of now, he’s likely to end up somewhere in the late second to third round. Ruggs could be one of the best value-picks in 2020 for Baltimore.
Tyler Biadasz (Wisconsin) – Center
Garret Bradbury was gone by the time the Ravens had a chance to pick in 2019 and the Ravens still have uncertainty in the middle of the line. Unless Matt Skura has a big year, center will be an early consideration in next year’s draft. Biadasz is easily the highest touted interior lineman coming in the 2020 class. He’s been part of a Wisconsin line that has dominated up front over the past two seasons. Wisconsin has a run-first offense, playing to Biadesz strengths. Stellar offensive line play has helped standout running back Jonathan Taylor total over 4,000 yards on the ground the past two seasons. Do you know who else plans on running the ball a lot? The Ravens. If DeCosta is to take another swing at interior lineman, it will likely be early.
Derrick Brown (Auburn) – Defensive Tackle
The Ravens probably aren’t going to be in a position to take Brown in 2020. However, if someone how his stock falls, the fit makes a lot of sense. Demonstrated by the swing DeCosta took at Gerald McCoy, he wants an interior d-lineman with the ability to get to rush the passer. Brandon Williams‘ contract also has an out after next season and Michael Pierce will need a new deal in 2020. Brown is probably the interior d-lineman in the class and could step into the NFL and contribute in a big way from day one. At 6’5″ and 318 pounds, very few players at his size cover ground like Brown. He’s contributed 20 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks his last two seasons at Auburn. His pass-rushing does need to improve more in 2019 but he still looks like a top-10 player.
Cam Akers (Florida State) – Running Back
Even though Kenneth Dixon came back from his injury scare in game two of the preseason, it looks like it will be tough for the Ravens to extend him past this following season. Akers has the look of an elusive/receiving back in the NFL, a quality the Ravens are currently without. The back they drafted in the fourth round this year, Justice Hill, could turn out to be one of the two, but the Ravens only have two running backs signed past this season. With the depth at running back in the 2020 class, Akers could provide great value in the early middle rounds if he’s available. He put up good numbers behind a subpar offensive line last season. If he proves his potential in 2019, he’s going to be a good player out of the backfield in the NFL.